By Ray Hickson
Trainer Jamie Richards has ruled out a change of program for star chestnut Te Akau Shark, reaffirming the Group 1 $4m Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) next month as his primary target.
There was some thought that the exciting five-year-old might be pointed towards the Doncaster Mile, run a week earlier, but Richards said there’s no reason to deviate from the plan following Saturday’s Group 1 $700,000 The Agency George Ryder Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill.
“Our plan all the way through has been to go straight to the Queen Elizabeth and I think that's the way we will go,’’ Richards said.
“That's the race we've had picked out since the spring and that's the race we'd like to target.’’
The Ryder could be the start of a huge month for Richards as he has Probabeel set to run (track condition permitting) in the Group 1 Vinery Stud Stakes on Saturday week, Melody Belle has arrived for The Star Doncaster and of course Te Akau Shark’s two Group 1 targets either side of those races.
Te Akau Shark confirmed his place as the headline horse of Australasian racing with his outstanding win in the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) three weeks ago.
Punter’s Intelligence sectional data showed the Shark clocked easily the fastest last 600m of the day when he ran 32.59 at Randwick.
Te Akau Shark wins the Chipping Norton Stakes at Randwick on February 29
“We've always held him in high regard and we were pleased with the way he performed and the way that he did it,’’ Richards said.
“When he got to the outside and got balanced up and started to charge it was unreal, he has a dynamic turn of foot and he's an exciting horse to be a part of.
“We're just glad he's in our stable and I think he has gone the right way since.”
Richards said the scenario for Te Akau Shark on Saturday won’t be too different to what we saw at Randwick, though there’s fewer numbers and he has to contend with coming back 100m.
“We won't be changing too much,’’ he said.
“He's drawn out and I think the track will be off fence so I'd say he will be coming own the centre.
“Opie (Bosson) knows him better than anybody else, we won't be giving too many instructions, he knows what he's capable of doing.’’
Te Akau Shark is a $2 chance with TAB to make it three Group 1 wins in a row, proof he’s now living up to the raps that were on him when he arrived in Australia in the spring.
Unfortunately Richards is unable to be at Rosehill with the restrictions on travel in place so he’ll be watching on either at Tauranga races in New Zealand or he’ll stop off on the way home to tune in.
“The trip in the spring was the makings of him,’’ Richards said.
“He needed to get away from home and race against the class of opposition he did. I think he has matured from the spring and that is showing in the way he's races.’’